The ultimate aim of the global governance, within the framework of modern trends in multilateralism, tends to orient towards “shaping world’s future”. Such governance’s structures are presently within several official, semi-official and private organisations: some are represented by bodies like G7, G20 and World Economic Forum, others by private and semi-official ones like Bilderberg summits, etc. The global governance institutions, by including other continents and states into its orbit, could both significantly contribute to sustainable world and increase multilateralism’s potentials in actions.
The global governance has been trying to organise itself from the day one; hence the second article in the EII’s series on “EU in global governance” deals with numerous bodies, organisations and institutions – mainly of a global nature – which presently are struggling to “form” the international system of global influence and governance. These institutions are divided into several groups: universal, regional, sub-regional as well as those created with a special purpose to exert “sectoral” influence in the global and regional governance.
The ultimate aim of the global governance – within the framework of modern trends in multilateralism – is oriented towards the so-called “shaping world’s future vision”; hence, all presently functioning organisations are aimed –at least in their declarations – at “improving the state of the world”…
Officially recognized global governance structures, often called “global government”–mostly in politico-economic sense, historically was performed by the United Nations’ institutions/bodies offering efficient at times regulatory schemes (though most often dominated by the United States’ interests). With about $3 billion/year budget, the UN institutions are aimed at managing global peace and stability, human rights, sustainable development and regional cooperation. However, the universal organisation’s 192 member states in the public “oral representation” at the UN “general summits” is rather limited: the member states, generally, are having ten minutes to speak on issues in the agenda though a general discussion can take about 30 hours.
From G7 and G8 to the “Group of Twenty” (G20)
The G-7 group, an informal bloc of the so-called advanced economies was originally founded in 1975 in order to allow the members to share macroeconomic initiatives; the initial effort represented a response to the collapse of the exchange rate in the 1970s, the energy crisis and the recession that followed. The group’s first meeting took place in March 1973 and was known as the “Library Group”: initially, four leaders from the US, UK, France and West Germany gathered in the library of the US President’s White House; Japan, the fifth’s member joined the group in 1973, Italy in 1975 and Canada in 1976; Russia was added the group in 1998, making it G8 in 1998 (later on, Russia was excluded from the group in 2014 and returned to the G7 format. Since the mid-1970s, the group meets each year to discuss economic policies; finance ministers of the member nations meet up to four times per year. Seven-group nations – the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK – are top-ranked countries with the highest net wealth per capita, the leading export positions and the largest gold reserves in the world. However, the G7 is not a formal institution with a group’s charter and a secretariat: the group’s presidency, which rotates annually among member states, is responsible for setting the agenda of each year’s summit and arranging its management. For example, at the G7 meeting in 2021, the group launched a major global infrastructure program to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The G7 represented (in the year before the pandemic) about 58 percent of the world’s total wealth and over 46 percent of the global GDP – down from nearly 70 percent three decades ago. The block unites about 770 million people or 10 percent of the world’s population: e.g. from 333 mln in the US, to Japan’s 126 mln, to Germany’s 84 mln, the UK’s 68,3 mln, 65,4 mln in France, about 60 mln in Italy and 38 mln in Canada. Some say that the G7, “in its current formulation, has no longer a reason to exist; it should be replaced with a more representative group of countries”.
Citation from: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/where-g7-headed.
The European Union participated in the G7 since 1981 as a “none-numerated” member; because about half of the EU states have been already members of the G7; however, the EU is represented by two presidents: from the European Council (which comprises the heads of the EU member states) and from the European Commission (as the EU’s executive institution); besides, the EU’s team is joined by a Commissioner responsible for the issue under discussion with his/her cabinet representatives.
The Group of Twenty, G20
After about a quarter of the century in the G7 existence, another global governance forum was established in 1999 as an informal gathering of the world’s largest economies with the main idea of discussing global economic issues. The G20 was formed in the wake of the Asian financial crisis, to unite finance ministers and central bankers from twenty of the world’s largest economies. A decade later, at the height of the global economic crisis, the G20 was elevated to include heads of state and government.
Quite often the group’s activity faced challenges from the US vested interests and protectionism confronting the growing multilateralism in the global socio-economic development, e.g. under President Donald J. Trump, the US increasingly challenged the group’s positions on climate, trade, and refugee policy.
Many analysts also believe that the G20’s power and prestige surpassed that of the G7, functioning mainly as a forum of finance ministers and central bank governors from the nineteen of the world’s largest economies, and including the EU. In fact, the G20 therefore is more that a “group of twenty”: it represents 43 countries (27 EU member states plus 16 non-EU countries); however, there are, as a rule 20 leaders “at the table”.
Emerging powers including Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa, whose absence from the G7 was often noted, all belong to the G20; e.g. Russia remains a member of the G20 while being expelled from the G7 in 2014.
The G20 member states represent about 80 percent of global GDP and three-fifths of the world’s population. These figures have remained relatively stable while data for the G7 shows constant decline as emerging markets take up a relatively greater share of the world’s economy. While the actual 43 countries (included in the G20) constitute about 22 percent of the UN member states, they nonetheless include about 63 percent of the world’s population and 87 percent of the gross world output.
Although the 43 countries, which actually are represented at the G20 summits do not speak for the whole global community united in the UN universal organisation with 193 member states, the G20 has great potentials to speak on behalf of the world’s population and socio-economic activity in such global issues as assistance to the less developed countries, climate change and sustainable development, argues Jeffrey Sachs, the SDSN director.
Increasing participation in the “global democracy”
The G7 and G20 efficiency lies in the groups’ role in global economy, politics and financial issues; however, a limited number of leaders –even in both groups – are unable in due flexibility and transparency provide for a concise discussion of the global issues and reach a feasible decision. One of the ways-out, as some suggested, is to increase the number of regions in the existing seven and/or twelve “groups”, which would lead to higher representation’s in the global political economy to enable speed and flexibility in deliberation and decision-making.
For example, including the African Union (AU) in G-20 would satisfy both criteria: vastly increased representation with just one added seat at the table. The group suddenly would represent 54 more countries, 1.4 billion more people, and $2.6 trillion more output. Moreover, admitting the AU to an expanded G21 would have the same galvanizing effect within Africa that the EU’s participation in the G20 has within Europe: it would strengthen policy coordination and coherence across the 55 African economies.
The AU’s 55 countries (more than one-quarter of UN members) are home to over 17.5 percent of global population, which is roughly the same population as in China or India, and an economy that would occupy the eighth’s rank, just behind France and ahead of Italy. But Africa’s share of the world’s population and output will grow in future years; thus already at present the G20’s sole African member, South Africa, has the 39th largest economy in the world, the smallest among the G20 member states. The GDPs of Nigeria and Egypt are actually larger than South Africa’s, but they still are not in the world’s top 20. As a result, African leaders outside of South Africa have been invited to the G20 only as observers. Africa’s very limited representation drastically limits Africa’s input in G20 deliberations on major global political and economic issues, both at the annual summits and in the year-round ministerial meetings. Admitting the AU to an expanded G20 would have a “galvanizing effect within Africa’s states”, as it has been with the EU states in the G20 participation: i.e. the process strengthened policy and economic coordination across both continents. Source:
Although most vital global governance bodies, the G7 and G20 are not regarded as a true global governance; even though the world’s 20 largest economies represent flexible and operational global “instrument” in solving major problems. Though the G20’s decisions do not have the force of international law, they can initiate and support resolution of main global challenges, such as climate change, financial support for less developed states, sustainable development goals (SDGs), digital agenda, etc. Some geopolitical analysts (e.g. Ian Bremmer and Nouriel Roubini) have argued against the G20’s utility, pointing that a “G-Zero” governance is emerging instead: i.e. one in which countries experience bilateral and/or multi-lateral specific coalitions to pursue their national interests. With growing skepticism about the G20’s utility, many observers point out that the group is still more representative of the current international balance of power than the existing G7 formed about 36 years ago.
The group’s first meeting took place in 1954 in the “Hotel de Bilderberg”, the venue which, henceforth, gave the conference its name; it was located in Oosterbeek, the Netherlands. The Bilderberg meetings are also unofficially called the “Bilderberg Group”, “Bilderberg conference” or/and “Bilderberg Club”.
For a couple of decades, the group was successfully (although in deep confidentiality) performed its role of “global governance” but also keeping in mind the participants’ own interests. Thus, during first two decades of the group, chaired by Dutch Prince Bernhard, it acted perfectly well until he had to step down being involved in a corruption scandal surrounding arms manufacturer Lockheed; the fact used by numerous critics, who have always placed Bilderberg meetings under suspicion, because of the alleged links between politics and business.
Bilderberg conferences’ participants have been always subject to specific rules of participation; most important is called the “Chatham House Rule” (established long before the Bilderberg meetings in 1927 by the UK Royal Institute of International Affairs), which obliged every attendee to observe absolute confidentiality with respect to conversation content and speakers’ statements. Unsurprisingly, this Silverberg’s meetings of the world powerful leaders often reveal strong criticism due to the lack of transparency. For example, Dutch political scientist Kees van der Pijl believes that interests represented at the conference have little to do with democracy. Source: https://www.dw.com/en/the-bilderberg-conference-world-government-or-mythical-secret-clique/a-18512600 (also all six chairmen of the group’s standing committee through its history can be seen in this web-link). The Bilderberg round-table was instrumental in setting up the Rome treaties, a very early stage of the modern European Union.
Note: The Bilderberg meeting (also known as the Bilderberg Group) is an annual conference aimed “to foster dialogue between Europe and North America”; the group’s agenda has been originally directed towards preventing wars and military conflicts, though most often it was bolstering a consensus around free market Western capitalism and its interests around the globe. Participants include political leaders, experts from industry, finance, academia, and the media, numbering between 120 and 150. Attendees are entitled to use information gained at meetings, but not attribute it to a named speaker; the procedure aimed to encourage candid debate, while maintaining personal privacy.
Fifty delegates from 11 Western and European democracies attended the first conference, along with 11 Americans. For example, a banker and industrialist Marcus Wallenberg Jr. was a member of the steering committee and participated in meetings twenty-two times from the 1950s to 1981, a year prior this his death; his grandson Marcus Wallenberg has attended it eight times and his other grandson, Jacob Wallenberg, seventeen times.
Jacob Wallenberg is Chairman of the Board of Investor AB, a leading shareholder of Nordic-based global companies; his “alma mater” is the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania in the US. He is also Vice Chairman of ABB, Ericsson AB, FAM AB and Patricia Industries. Wallenberg also serves on the Board of Nasdaq Inc., in Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and a couple of other Wallenberg Foundations and Stockholm School of Economics. He is a member of the steering committee of ERT, the European Round Table of Industrialists and the Advisory Board of Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management; he is also a member of the Trilateral Commission. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Wallenberg.
In 2001, Denis Healey, a Bilderberg group founder and a steering committee member for 30 years, said, “to say we were striving for a one-world government is exaggerated, but not wholly unfair. Those of us in Bilderberg felt we couldn’t go on forever fighting one another for nothing and killing people and rendering millions homeless. So we felt that a single community throughout the world would be a good thing”. Citation from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bilderberg_meeting.
At one of the latest, the four-day Bilderberg meeting in Switzerland (30 May – 2 June, 2019), the board of the meeting included prominent world’s decision-makers: Castries, Henri de, Chairman, Steering Committee; Chairman, Institute Montaigne, France; Kravis, Marie-Josée, President, American Friends of Bilderberg Inc.; Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, USA; Halberstadt, Victor, Chairman Foundation Bilderberg Meetings; Professor of Economics, Leiden University, The Netherlands; Achleitner, Paul M., Treasurer Foundation Bilderberg Meetings; Chairman Supervisory Board, Deutsche Bank AG. Other participants can be seen in the meeting’s press release. Source: https://www.bilderbergmeetings.org/press/press-release/participants.
There is little information on exactly what is happening at Bilderberg conferences, and it is difficult to follow discussions: it is known that participants’ discussions take place in 90-minute intervals.
Other institutions in the global governance
The World Economic Forum (WEF), based in Cologny, Geneva Canton, Switzerland, is an international NGO, founded in January 1971 by Klaus Schwab with a goal of “improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas”. The WEF is mostly known for its an annual meeting at the end of January in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland. The meeting brings together some 3,000 business leaders, international politicians, economists, etc. for up to five days to discuss global issues, across about half-thousand sessions. However, the WEF is being criticized recently regarding the tax-free activities and excessive security’s costs uniting wealthy global elites without attachment to the broader societies in largely undemocratic decision processes under a lack of financial transparency, unclear selection criteria for its annual meetings. As a reaction of criticism within the Swiss civic society, the Swiss federal government decided in February 2021 to reduce its annual contributions to the WEF. More in: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Economic_Forum
For en interested public, there are web-links below to other global “discussion clubs”: World Youth Forum, Asian Leadership Conference, Boao Forum for Asia, Eurofi, European Business Summit, International Transport Forum, Istanbul World Political Forum, St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, World Knowledge Forum and Horasis.
Centers of “global gravity”
Growing political and economic interdependence among the regions and countries has become a fact of life of the contemporary world; besides, the process not only transcends national interests but also influences national decision-making. In view of developing greater cooperation among all the countries of the world, the three main centers (Japan, Western Europe, and North America), in view of their great weight in the world economy and their complex interconnections with one another, bear a special responsibility for developing effective cooperation, both in their own interests and in those of the rest of the world. In this way, these three centers of global gravity exert cardinal transformations in the world governance.
To be effective in facing common problems, the three centers are deemed to closer consultations and coordination in politics and economics on matters of common interests. Most often, they refrain from unilateral actions incompatible with their interdependence and damaging their influence in other regions of the world. Besides, they take advantage of existing international and regional organizations and exert their influence and role in global governance.
A vivid example of enlarging global governance’s system is the Trilateral Commission as a non-governmental discussion group was founded by David Rockefeller in July 1973 to foster closer cooperation between Japan, Western Europe and North America. The Trilateral Commission is a global policy-oriented discussion group with about 390 distinguished decision-makers from Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific states (hence three-partners) formed to encourage understanding and closer cooperation among these three regions on shared global problems. Reference to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trilateral_Commission.
Membership is proportionally divided among the commission’s three regional areas: North America is represented by 120 members (20 Canadian, 13 Mexican and 87 U.S. citizens); the European group is limited to 170 members from almost every country on the continent (with the following ceilings for individual countries: 20 for Germany; 18 for each from France, Italy and the United Kingdom; 12 for Spain and 1 to 6 participants for the rest of Europe). At first Asia and Oceania were represented only by Japan, but in 2000 the Japanese group of 85 members became the Pacific Asia group, comprising 117 members: 75 Japanese, 11 South Koreans, 7 Australian and New Zealand citizens, and 15 members from the ASEAN nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand). The Pacific Asia group also included 9 members from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan; the commission now claims “more than 100” Pacific Asian members.
The European group in the Trilateral Commission, which was formed in mid-1973, shortly after the enlargement from 6 to 9 including Denmark, the UK and Ireland into the then European Community, has been active in progressive EU’s integration. The emphasis given to a unifying Europe playing a larger role on the global stage makes it therefore important for the European group to meet on its own as well as with North American and Asian colleagues. The 175-member ceiling for the European group is divided into national quotas: Germany has a quota of 22; France, Italy, and the United Kingdom each have a quota of 18; and Spain has12; remaining national quotas range from 6 to 1.
Officially, the Commission intends to play a creative role as a channel of free exchange of opinions with other countries and regions with a further progress in less developed countries and greater improvement of East-West relations. Source: https://trilateral.org/page/17/faq.
Some scientists (e.g. Noam Chomsky) criticized the existing global governance institutions and Trilateral Commission in particular as undemocratic, pointing out (in The Crisis of Democracy), a growing popular interest in politics during the 1970s as an “excess of democracy”. They are describing a modern western political system not to be really democratic and controlled by elites; thus, Chomsky says that “global groups” was to reduce the public needs to “a proper state of apathy and obedience”. For example, critics accused the Trilateral Commission of promoting a global consensus among the international ruling classes in order to manage international affairs in the interest of the financial and industrial elites under the “trilateral umbrella”.
In his 1980 book With No Apologies, Republican Senator Barry Goldwater suggested that the global “discussion groups” represented “a skillful, coordinated effort” to seize control and consolidate the existing centers of power (i.e. political, economic, monetary, intellectual and ideological) in the creation of a worldwide power structures to supersede political governments of the nation-states involved. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Birch_Society.
Closely related to the criticism of the global governance’s issues are conspiracy theories: some scientists and conspiracy theorists believe that numerous “discussion organizations” represent vital points in the “global government” dubbed as synarchism; the latter generally means “joint rule” or “harmonious rule” and has been used to denote rule by a secret elite.
It has been once, when Luke Rudkowski interrupted the lecture of the former Trilateral Commission director Zbigniew Brzezinski in April 2007 and accused the organization and a few others of having orchestrated the 9/11 attacks to initiate a new world order. Neo-conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer sardonically alluded to the conspiracy theories when he was asked in 2012 who makes up the “Republican establishment”, saying, “Karl Rove is the president; we meet every month on the full moon at the Masonic Temple. We have the ritual: Karl brings the incense, I bring the live lamb and the long knife, and we began… with a pledge of allegiance to the Trilateral Commission.” Source: https://www.trilateral.org/#12.